Monday, July 8, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 16: Rhubarb Torte and Grandma

Good morning Crushers!

Although sad, I am relieved to report that Grandma found heavenly peace on Saturday, July 6 early in the morning. As predicted, she did live to see her 97th birthday. She always rallied for a party. She LOVED her birthday. Must be where I get it from...

Waving to the band with Uncle Steve
Anyway, if we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you that it has been a weird weekend. It was so much fun to see the 4th of July through my nephew's eyes. Patrick loved the parade! As each thing went by the parade route, he would yell, "Hi Police! Hi horses!!" He couldn't quite say "marching band". He practiced saying "Happy birthday Great-Grandma!" and was a hit. Sometimes babies/toddlers are the best medicine!

After helping mom with some things at Grandma and Grandpa's house on Friday, Steve and I went with my brother, Mike, and sister-in-law, Melissa, and Patrick to Summerfest for the afternoon. Thanks to "Malt-o-Meal day" we got in free. Patrick loved the music and the playground. He waved at a band member of Pigpen Theater Co (great new band!) and the guy waved back! Patrick yelled "Hi Band!" Awesome!

If we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you that I envy all of the actresses who can cry without looking like a hot mess. They have these pretty tears that just gently roll down their cheeks and never smear their mascara. Well, I don't understand why they can't cry like the rest of us with raccoon eyes and red noses and such. Hollywood, step up to the plate.

If we were on a virtual running date, I would also tell you that next to Patrick's giggles, exercise is a wonderful mood lifter. Steve and I went for a 12 mile bike ride along the Bug Line Trail through Sussex. What a great trail! There were so many people out there enjoying it on bikes and on foot. GORGEOUS!

If we were on a virtual running date, I would also tell you that tears can sneak up on you at the most random times. For instance, I picked a ton of rhubarb yesterday afternoon. Because we had so much, I had to find something to do with all of it. Thankfully, my mother-in-law gave me a ton of recipes last year! So here I was in the kitchen just cutting up rhubarb (tip: use a kitchen scissors to cut the stalks into smaller pieces - works like a charm!) and all of a sudden, the strawberry/rhubarb mix just made me think of up north with Grandma. Ugh! That's totally going to happen at random points throughout the rest of summer. I just know it. Just goes to show how it's the little things that matter. Even rhubarb!

Strawberry Rhubarb Torte
(Based on the "Mom's Rhubarb Torte" recipe published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday, April 27, 2011)

Crust: 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten - save the whites for the meringue topping
Filling: 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten - save the whites for the meringue topping, 1 cup sugar, 5 Tbsp flour, 3 cups fresh rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces, 1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
Meringue Topping: 4 egg whites, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp cream of tartar, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract

3 bowls (or one bowl that you wash 2 times), measuring cups and spoons, stand mixer or electric mixer, spatula, and a 13 x 9 pan.

Preheat the oven to 325. Put all of the ingredients in a big bowl. Unless you let the butter reach room temperature and soften a bit, here is a trick to get it soft without getting too hot. If the butter is too hot or melty, then it will cook the egg yolks and then you get a weird scrambled egg texture in the crust. Put the butter (still wrapped) in the microwave for 10-12 seconds. Unwrap and slide the butter into your mixing bowl. Save the wrapper to grease the bottom and sides of your 13 x 9 pan. Remove any rings, wash your hands, and just use your hands to mix up the crust. It will be dry, but when it gets all crumbly, you know you're good to go. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan like I explained for the lemon bars.

Now, you can either use the same bowl and just rinse it out or grab another one. I used a big mixing bowl that had cup measurements on the side, so I filled it with 3 cups of chopped rhubarb and 1 cup of strawberries that I quartered. So bright and colorful! If you've never eaten rhubarb, it can be very, very tart, so the strawberries and sugar that you're going to add are important. Mix all of the filling ingredients together until it's well-coated. Then pour it over the crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the filling looks "set" meaning that it doesn't jiggle if you wiggle the pan.
Such gorgeous color!
While that's baking, get out a big bowl with high sides because you're about to beat the heck out of the egg whites for your meringue topping. I used my stand mixer, but you can use a hand mixer too. Unless you're really ambitious, don't use a whisk. Your arms would be so tired! Anyway, this is really the only part of the recipe where it is important to put all of the ingredients in the bowl in order. Put in the egg whites that you saved from the crust and filling. Add the salt and cream of tartar right away. Put the mixer on medium-high and let that beat for 1-2 minutes until it starts getting really bubbly. It will look kind of white. Gradually add the sugar a tablespoon at a time. Beat and beat and beat it until it starts to look white and creamy. Then keep beating it some more. If you have a hand mixer, you'll want to give up and let your arm rest, but don't! You want the topping to make stiff peaks when you stop to test it. Once it does make stiff peaks, add the vanilla and beat for another minute.
That peak was so stiff, it stood there, just like that, for about 9 minutes
before I poured it over the filling!
When the filling and crust are done baking, pull them out of the oven and pour the delicious meringue filling (tastes like the inside of marshmallow, but better!) over the top. I just smeared it around until I thought the top looked pretty, but some people like to do little swirls or bat at it with the back of a spoon so it has tons of peaks. Whatever floats your boat! Make sure that the meringue reaches to all sides of the pan like you're sealing in the filling. Then pop it back in the oven for 12 more minutes or until the peaks start to turn golden.
I cannot lie. I had two slices right away! One was not enough.
You can serve it hot or cold. If you serve it cold, it slices better, but it's hard to wait that long! Enjoy!

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